April 4, 2018 – “Ancient Numeral Systems, Abaci, and More Papyri”

Hello, everyone!

I apologize for the tardiness of this entry, but here is the entry for April 4, 2018. There are no announcements to be made, but progress was made regarding the Howard Eves Audio Collection and the contents will be discussed momentarily. The day was pretty straight-forward, likewise so will this entry be.

After logging in my time in my spreadsheet, I quickly gathered my headphones and the Howard Eves Audio Collection and resumed listening to the CDs. After finding where I left off in disc four, began to take notes as Dr. Eves’ lesson on the history of the number zero was explained and how they were computed in the Greek numeral system and the Chinese Scientific Numeral System. Curiously, the Babylonians did not have a symbol for the number zero in their system. After assigning homework the Simple Grouping System, Dr. Eves dismissed his class and I switched to disc five.

Disc five featured the different writing materials the ancient peoples used for calculations: writing paper made from bamboo used in Ancient China, sand trays used by Greeks like Archimedes, animal skins and the development of ink removal, wood slits used by nineteenth century Americans (Dr. Eves recounted how his grandfather learned mathematics with a wood slit and a sharp writing utensil as a child), and Roman usage of pebbles led to the word origin for Calculus. Yet, it was his lesson on the abacus that was the focus of the class.

Dr. Eves spoke of literary examples of the abacus from Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and how American soldiers in post-war occupation of Japan witnessing a Japanese merchant using an abacus led to a computing contest. Other points of history discussed were Jean-Victor Poncelet introduces the Russian abacus into France after being a prisoner of war in Russia in the Napoleonic Wars. The last subject discussed was how the Arab-Hindu numeral system was adapted by Europeans as a result of trading interactions with the Arabs and Indians.

Disc six began on a somber note as Dr. Eves explained that he was experiencing hearing loss. He told a humorous tale of his interactions with an auto mechanic and how his hearing led to a misunderstanding regarding the question of “What is your full name?” Yet, it was his sobering statement of not wanting to stop teaching and the semester that these recordings were made might be his last brought a somber mood for the rest of the recording. Anyone can sympathize with Dr. Eves not wanting to give up something that he loved doing and it was evident he enjoyed his interactions with his students.

The topic of the disc was mathematics in the “Ancient Orient” and the Agricultural Revolution. A basic astronomy (leading to mathematics), surveying land began, the Bartering System (finance mathematics), how Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (who Ahmes was) and the Moscow Papyrus reveal Ancient Egyptian mathematics, and concluded with Ancient Babylonian sources: clay tablets of which approximately four hundred are mathematical texts (mostly tables).  This topic would be resumed in the beginning of disc seven with Georg Friedrich Grotefend’s contributions to translating the ancient Mesopotamian sources. Alas, this is where I would leave the lesson as my time ran short.

So, this concludes this week’s entry. With disc seven, a third of the audio collection of the collection was been processed in terms of noting the contents. Hopefully, the discs’ duration will be as manageable as these last two. But, that question will be answered next week. Until then, have a safe weekend! Bye!

Author: 57r3l574d

I am currently a Graduate Student at the University of Central Florida and simultaneously employed by the university library's Special Collections and University Archives as a Other Personnel Service (OPS) Student. Expected to graduate in 2019 with a History MA - Public History Track.

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